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Hanin Elias (ex-Atari Teenage Riot)

February 11th, 2004 · post by Edd · Make a comment

I remember the first time that I heard Hanin Elias’s voice. I was hiding in a friend’s room at his birthday party trying to avoid drunk/ high people. Whilst mooching in their generally poking around things that I shouldn’t be I came across his Atari Teenage Riot CDs. He’d kept going on at me to listen/ buy the damn things so I thought – being that I had nothing better to do – I’d give ‘em a listen. To say I was blown away is a little bit of an understatement. In a drunk stupor I made my friend copy me the CDs and I trundled home, where I spent most of the night listening to the beautiful electronic chaos that is ATR. The next day I woke up and went onto the internet and investigated the band. The only similar moment I’ve had to learning that ATR were no longer was learning that Refused had kicked the barrel before I could have seen them play live. On the bright side though ATR splintered into a series of good side projects (unlike t(i)nc). One of which was Hanin Elias’s solo work, which is as awesome as anything ATR ever did. I also learnt that she ran a record label called Fatah

RN: OK first question I guess why did you decide to set up your own label?
Hanin: Yeah, well that was in around ‘98, when I was on DHR, and I felt that everything about politics was spoken, except one thing, which was feminism, and women’s thought or view on things. So that’s why I thought I have to form a sub label, because I didn’t want to have to deal with all the business of a full label, but I still wanted to create a creative platform. It was designed to be a platform for girls only in electronic music, and their way of handling equipment and using equipment, because for the most part the equipment always seems to be set up to serve just boys and men. So yeah that was the first idea. But then I was very disappointed with Digital Hardcore Recordings (DHR) and one and a half years ago I set up FATA recordings independently. I’m not so dogmatic anymore. It’s not just a women’s only label, and stuff. But it’s still the first thing, feminism has the priority. (laughs)

RN: Why did it stop to be so dogmatic about it?
Hanin: I think it was just that reality looks slightly different to how I perceived it. It’s not that women are better than men, or men are worse than women. I think that it’s always the press end, it’s attitude. And there are so many men who are supporting FATA recordings, and who are supporting feminism, and I think that it’s important to not just preach for the converted, but to also involve men, and not just keep them outside of the door. I think that’s what men used to do for a very long time with women, they didn’t let them in to their spaces and I don’t think that’s very constructive with moving forward. I don’t think that the differences between the sexes should be the issue, that’s not the point. I think that the point should be that together, fighting for a more perfect life. If men feature women by coming out with this, and supporting them, because mostly they have more connections, and more power, because they power structures are still entirely made up like this, and if they help them to get in there, and get more respected, then I think that’s more important than just women trying to fight for themselves in their own bookish world, and seeing what happens around. And also… I was also very disappointed by some women, who were really competitive who didn’t really wanna get it in their life, that this isn’t the right way to live your life. I think it happens in some women, who are wanting careers, because so little space has been left by the men, that the competition between the women is very, very big. Even though they say they want to feature each other, there’s always something in between. I don’t know, that was another thing that I wanted to speak out about through my music, or the label, or whatever. Because I think that feminism – like most –isms – is a dream world, where we want to create something really great. But it’s an illusion that it’s something that we have to fight for. We have to first deal with the smaller things. Like with just this little label, with only six people, we’ll still have problems because everybody is an individual. And this is something that you have to handle first. You have to handle feminism first, what you want from it, and then go out and speak to the rest of the world, and try and change things.

RN: So have you decided that female only forums are perhaps not the most constructive ways of doing things? I mean do you have Ladyfest in Germany?
Hanin: Yes we have Ladyfest in Germany. And yeah I did actually feel a little discriminated by them, because they wanted only women who would do their music by themselves. But my way of doing music, my singing and performing, is not that I want to be omnipotent and do everything myself, I want to work with people, and I want to have people on stage who I like, and who will help present my music as well as possible. And of course everybody knows that I’ve done music with other people, especially with men, you know. But then they wanted to put me on this Ladyfest but they didn’t want any men on it, so they asked me if I would perform by myself, with just a laptop or something (laughs). I just said, this is just a lying illusion kind of thing, it’s not true that I make music by myself, and I don’t want to do a karaoke show. This is isn’t the way that I wanted to be presented. So for me the Ladyfest idea was over with this, because of this dogmatism. [It should be noted that in most Ladyfest cases boys have been allowed to perform if they're part of the band, it's the individual that put it on that sucked, not the concept!]

RN: So talking about this kind of thing what do you think of certain labels who are perceived to be clinging to this dogma?
Hanin: Well if they only want to work with women, then that’s cool, that’s their thing. But that’s not how I want to walk.

RN: Was it because you were just banging your head against a brick wall that you decided to move away from doing an all female label?
Hanin: No I think it was because I changed, I developed. I thought that this isn’t the right way to go, because it blocks so many people away, who are actually cool, and who actually want to support the things that I want to do. I mean the whole thing against globalisation, or against fascists and right wing politicians, it’s not female only. I think that the whole feminist thing is something that I can speak out on, and it’s certainly something that bands feature when they join the label, and it’s something that I want them to speak about it. But – I don’t know how to say it – it seems so obvious. It’s like you guys are wanting to do a female thing in your magazine, so that you want to feature the view on women, because maybe you are bored with what you see, so you changed things, or are trying to change things, perhaps more than some women who are happy playing the same role that they’ve played in the past hundred years. So you are more feminist than this woman is, just for example. So I think that it’s an individual thing. I think that if people have this view on things then it’s irrelevant whether it’s a man or a woman.

RN: Do you see problems though with us doing an ‘all girl issue’?
Hanin: I think that with guys – just for example – you would never put an indie band, with a hip-hop band just because they are men you know? But I think that this sometimes happens with women. That simply by being a women making music you are part of some sub-genre. (laughs) RN: Yeah I’m having the problem that we’d never have to have an ‘all boy issue’, but we have to make a big deal about this. Hanin: Yeah now you see the difference! (laughs)

RN: Well moving onto something else, you talked about globalisation slightly earlier. Do you feel that maybe when you attack sexism you’re attacking similar institutions, or ideals, that you would be by attacking that?
Hanin: Yeah I mean, when I say that I’m fighting against the politics, I can also say that I’m fighting against patriarchy. And the whole world has been built up on these structures, and I’m very into the history of war, how it was created, and the religious context, slaughtering victims, and the rest, and it all seems come back to a mostly male behaviour. So I think that with this knowledge, if I say that I’m fighting for a more equal world, or at least if we have a more equal world then I don’t think it would be a patriarchal world anymore. And hopefully in this world women wouldn’t undermine themselves anymore, and turn themselves into… I mean for example, most of the women who work in the music business, they’re trained to serve men, and learn men’s taste in music, or mimic their view on movies and blah. And they’re totally working for the men. If we would find our identity, or given a chance to find our identity, without being brainwashed with ‘girl-interest’ – like make-up, boyfriends and blah. If we were allowed to find our interest then we could really make our own decisions and mix them with the deciscions of the guys and have something that is more equal. But I think that… How can it come to this? Because at the moment it’s more put down to genetic things, that women want to find the perfect man, to have the perfect children and blah, blah, blah. And this is how women get reduced to something… I don’t know! Another thing, is that so many men can’t identify with the power structures anymore and going to war, or fighting for your country and the rest. But I think there’s more a turning for me towards a more ‘feminine’ view on things. That men get – you know – have enough self esteem to fight for themselves too. But then again there has always been academics, and left wing people who the right wing always describe as weak, who have always fought for this kind of thing.

RN: It sounds like you’re faintly pessimistic about the chance for boys and girls becoming equal in our society?
Hanin: Well I mean it takes a while, we can’t expect it to happen in the next five years, and we have a long way if we really want to follow this goal. I think that most people give up in their mid-thirties, they give up fighting against because it takes up a lot of energy, so I see this as a teenage thing, you know, that teenagers, and young adults have to fight for. Because I mean when you reach the mid-thirties you loose the energy for doing this. That was something that we were trying to say with Atari Teenage Riot, in the old days. (laughs) But I just turned thirty, so I feel like I’ve got five more years to put my energy together and try to motivate and inspire, and then the next generation has to take over! (laughs)

RN: Do you worry that a lot of people already feel that there is no sexism anymore. That boys and girls are already equal?
Hanin: Well of course they are equal when they just expect to be able to choose between hamburger and cheeseburger. Then I would say they’re equal. If it’s about ‘you can use my lipstick, and I can use yours’. But this has nothing to do with the whole global fuel on the world, how women have the right to vote, and in how many countries, and how many female presidents are… and… I don’t know maybe they’re equal in terms of consuming, and consumerism, but that’s not real equality.

RN: Is the only way to make a difference with this is to talk about it?
Hanin: I think that a lot of it starts with power jokes. This was very big the DHR scene. I mean we’d be on tour with the boys in ATR and there’d be all the jokes about how big their dicks were, and anti-girl jokes and blah. But the girls were used to it. We accepted it. We didn’t even think about how stupid it was that guys try to feel big and cool, just when they can make jokes about girls, and about how big their dicks are. But I think that a lot of it stems from this power thing, the boys trying to enforce that they’re stronger than others and this is very male. So I think that it can change if boys realise that this isn’t really cool anymore, and if they out themselves, then the other boy who makes the joke about girls, or about ‘weaker people’, or whatever. I think if you just make him stop and tell him how stupid he is for saying and thinking this, then that’s a way in which boys can start to stop this. I think that it starts when people are teenage boys, making themselves feel better or more powerful than others. And the end is in war when women are raped, because the men are showing that they can fuck the land, can fuck the girls and use the girls, and women are mostly treated like the Earth that we live in. Largely it seems because of their sexual… well they have a pussy and not a dick. I think this is how it ends. This is the worst ending, but it starts with these jokes, and boys being made to be different from the girl. Because they boy can do this, and the boy can do that, and the boy can stay up longer and blah, blah, blah. And of course boys see how women get treated and presented in the media. And in Germany we have for example, when it turns to ten o’clock, we have these commercials that show naked women, and you can call, and they’re always ready, any age, any whatever. And it just further reinforces that girls are just for male entertainment. Likewise for a girl when she’s awake watching this will feel like, well now I should go to bed, because now it’s boys time – you know? It’s not equal. It might be equal if there were boys on the TV, and if you call, and they’ll show you their dicks. That would be equal. But then you’ve got the issue of sexual exploitation.

RN: So do you see porn then as part of the problem, in terms of women being treated unequally?
Hanin: Well I know women who enjoy watching porn as well, so I’m not sure about that now. But I think essentially if someone wants to rent some porn they should have the possibility to that. But there shouldn’t, you shouldn’t have to see the small minded male sexuality on the television if you don’t want to. You know what I mean? I think that it really puts a certain idea of sexuality across, which is really stupid. Like women just looking like they want to serve men or whatever.

RN: Talking of media representation, how do you worry alternative music magazines tend to represent women in exactly the same way as the mainstream does?
Hanin: Yeah. But I also think that it’s partly because this is how … this how the woman wants to be seen. It’s not only the men. But the woman feels she has to portray herself as the perfect sex object. I mean if they’re not then nobody care and nobody wants to know. And I mean of course women feel sexually and feel great about they’re sexuality, and it’s cool to show it, but as long as it’s for themselves. I think that’s the difference. If you see that they’re not doing it for themselves. Instead they’re doing it to serve some guys taste, then I think that the sexuality turns into something weak, and passive. And this what some men get off on, this is what makes them feel strong. They see these women in these passive poses and they feel safe, and feel as though they can do whatever they want, that she belongs to them. And that’s why I feel why anti-preventation of male sexuality in the media, even if it’s for the same thing, it’s still better than, than this kind of Kylie Minogue sexuality. I suppose a strong sexuality may still be serving men, but I think that she can feel more comfortable. I don’t know it’s stupid. It comes back to where women want the power. But I think this is one of those problems where you can’t really find a solution because it’s all stupid in the end. On the other side, we are all sexual people, and we all enjoy sex, so the presentation of sexuality is not something shocking. But if it actively exploits the woman, then of course this is different. For me, I do it mainly for myself, because I need to get things out. But people very often say that it has a very strong sexual vibe about the shows. I think a sexually demanding woman, and a woman that has a very sexual aura is still something very scary for a lot of men. And I think that a lot of men still want to put that woman under some kind of control. That’s part of my stage show, trying to show that you can’t put me under control!

RN: Going back to the idea that you’ll loose you’re energy at 35, do you think that, that will stop you playing live?
Hanin: Oh no, no, no. I don’t think this, but I think that I feel that I can’t continue with the Atari Teenage Riot style show anymore. I feel like I did it already, and now I want to try to develop something else. But I still think that there need’s to be people telling people in music in the same way that we did with Atari, you know? And speaking about politics. I still feel a need for this kind of music. And though I’ve begun to develop, or move into different parts of music, I would hope that people would still follow this kind of music and politics. I mean I sing about politics in a very strong way, but less aggressively as ATR.

RN: Do you see anyone doing the equivalent to what ATR did?
Hanin: I see that the whole politics in music has been turned into the mainstream, which I think is actually cool, because it gets more people into it. And it’s the same with things like Michael Moore’s books for example. And when I see Justin Timberlake singing with people like the Black Eyed Peas, and they’re singing against the War. It was against Bush, and all of those things. I think that perhaps before Atari Teenage Riot people wouldn’t have thought that you could have these strong opinions in the mainstream. But because we got so big at that time, lots of people got influenced by us. And we toured the US so many times, and met so many different people, and they were very inspired by what they did. And I think some people have taken what we were doing onto different projects.

RN: So I’m taking it that ATR aren’t going to be reforming?
Hanin: Well I feel at the moment that I’m still doing the ‘Atari’ thing still, but I’m mixing it with other music bits, so I try to mix it. I also have slower, or quieter songs. So at the moment I’m doing many styles at once rather than just doing the hard style thing. Because that was one of the things that slightly bored me about ATR, because after a while all it was about was just being harder and faster, and getting as apocalyptic message across. But I think there are other ways to speak out. So this is what I’m trying to do with this next album.

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